In retrospect, some of his symptoms were there but I didn’t notice. I thought he was just getting old and harder to move around. It took him several “think about its” before he’d go up stairs; I thought he either didn’t want to go inside or his hips were hurting. He’d stand with his rear legs touching. These were signs of Degenerative Myelopathy, which is what Meik died of. The myelopathies can have various and assorted symptoms. Not what took him, but something else to ponder.

He started snoring from time to time about 8 – 10 months ago. Probably was the tumor starting to block his airway. I’d say “Darek” and he’d wake up, turn over, and it would stop.

On the 4th of September (Tuesday), I noticed a runny nose. Not just a wet runny nose, but a milky white mucous discharge. Thought he might have a cold, thought I’d give him a day and see what happened. Wednesday, same runny nose, but he didn’t want to eat. When I was wiping away mucous, I got a lot of clotted blood – I thought he’d bitten his tongue, couldn’t see anything in his mouth, though. His breathing had gotten pretty noisy late Wednesday, he didn’t want to eat chicken I’d gotten from Mother’s, thought the cold was worse so Thursday morning I called the vet and took him in.

He had a fever, they thought something lung/respiratory was going on, so they did some X-rays. The Dr. called me in and explained that it looked like he had a collapsed lobe of his lung. I would have to take him to the Dallas Veterinary Surgical Center in Southlake (that’s the same folks that cared for Xaros, just different location). Surgery would be the only thing that could save him at that point, if in fact it was a collapsed lobe.

I took him in and they did a work-up and examination. Said the lungs were OK, the X-ray was showing some shadows that made it look collapsed but lungs were fine. What wasn’t fine, however, was that he had a large tumor in his oral and nasal cavity. The “mass” was almost certainly a melanoma. It had ulcerated, was crossing the midline of his oral cavity, and had probably eaten through into the nasal cavities. That had caused the infection, discharge, bleeding, fever, and breathing issues. They said it looked like he also had Laryngeal Paralysis and various myelopathies.

His prognosis was bleak.

They said he really had three options:

  1. Have surgery. The doctor was pretty frank, though, in explaining the surgical issues. It would be very extensive to remove the tumor; would require partial jaw removal and reconstruction, lengthy recovery, lengthy therapy, and multiple surgical procedures. She really didn’t think that at Darek’s age he would survive the initial surgery; she also thought that since it was probably a cancer, there was more elsewhere and we would only be removing a small part.
  2. Do nothing. Darek wasn’t eating, was having trouble drinking, was having trouble breathing. He would probably die within a few days, suffering along the way. Certainly not an option.
  3. Have him put to sleep.

This was devastating news. What I thought was a cold was now a horrendous cancer.  They wanted to keep him overnight and see if maybe he stabilized, then I could make the decision tomorrow (Friday).

I let him stay there Thursday night. I decided I would bring him home Friday, keep him comfortable as possible, then Dr. Jeff Williams from Bridgeport would come out Saturday morning and take care of Darek.

I picked him up Friday. He drank a little bit of water, got him home. He lay down and pretty much stayed in one spot. I coaxed him into eating some ice cream and drinking some milk, but he wouldn’t take food still.

Friday night, I lifted him up on the bed and lay down next to him. I petted him and spoke to him. I prayed that his suffering could end. His breathing got better and we were finally able to get some sleep.

The vet office called at 8am Saturday, wanting to check to make sure they were still needed. I said just a moment….Darek wasn’t where he last was…I found him in the den, standing up looking around. I thought I’d try some food – he ate a can of food, then another, then another. Drank water, had milk, and some chicken. Went outside and did his business, then came back up onto the porch. He had experienced a remission.

I told the vet what happened. Dr. Jeff said come by and get some steroids and pain pills for him; the steroids would help the tumor stay “shrunk”. Said to feed him canned or soft food only.

On Sunday, he ate 6 cans of food. I got him some of the moist packet foods; he’d get two packets in the morning with a couple of cans of food, and one in the evening with more canned food and his bowl of milk. He took his pills with the meals.

The following week you wouldn’t know anything was wrong. No breathing issues, no mucous, no blood. He started going up the stairs easier, too.

All went well for about 10 days. Tuesday the 18th, he ate breakfast fine. In the evening, he drank most of his milk, but only ate about ¼ of his dinner.  I was used to him wolfing it down pretty quick. Maybe he was just full.

Wednesday morning, he didn’t eat anything. Didn’t want to drink anything, either. I stayed with him, his breathing got worse (very wet sounding and noisy).  I left for lunch and came back, he was still the same. He tried to eat some hot dog, but he couldn’t chew or swallow it. He drank a small amount of milk, but refused water. He started bleeding from the mouth again and getting severe mucous draining, the tumor had come back and had probably ulcerated in his mouth and throat. I called the vet and made an appointment for Thursday morning. I could tell this time he wasn’t going to get better. Too many problems.

I went and ate with my Mother; she had fixed Darek some chicken. She didn’t know his condition, and I didn’t tell her until after we ate. I went home and Darek tried to eat some; he ended up licking it a bit before turning away.

He didn’t move around much. He went outside by himself (I didn’t want him too but the doggie door was open and out he went), but fell trying to get back in. He had wanted to go up by himself, shunning my assistance. After he fell, he stood and let me pick him up.

He started bleeding quite a bit; I put a towel under his head to catch the blood. Too late now to call the vet, I just had to hope it would stop. It did.

He lay down at the foot of the bed and I petted him and talked to him again. We went to sleep. I woke up a few hours later and looked; there was a puddle of blood where he’d been, about 12” round. I found him in the den with another smaller puddle. I got him cleaned up, towels in place, and it finally stopped. He was weak.

Bleeding started and stopped. Blood was all over the house, it seemed like.

We stayed in the house until around 10am, then we went out in the front yard. He slowly climbed down the porch steps by himself, but plopped down almost immediately in one of his favorite spots to watch everything. I brushed him, talked to him, washed the blood and mucus from his face and paws, wiped his mouth and nose and waited for Dr. Jeff.

He drank a little bit of water, a little milk, but no solid food. As he was trying to drink the milk, the milk in the bowl slowly turned pink, then red. He was bleeding again...it soon stopped.

He saw a cat and his ears went up, but didn’t try to get up.

Dr. Jeff arrived and looked at him and assured me I was doing the right thing, that it was time. When they drove up, Darek didn't make any effort to get up. He always had to meet everyone before. He was tired.

I held him in my arms, cradled his head and told him he was brave, and that he was a good little puppy and I loved him. I stroked his head, hugged him. I looked in his eyes and he looked in mine, then he was gone. September 20, 2012, 11:52am.